Friday, May 16, 2008

Quackademic medicine at Yale

It’s been a good week for the exposure of the fraud, corruption and pervasive conflicts of interest in high places in the world of woo. Just last Tuesday the Medscape Journal of Medicine published an article exposing the bad science and pervasive conflicts of interest behind the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s ongoing chelation trial. Today David Colquhoun, blogging at DC’s Improbable Science, wrote about Integrative baloney at Yale in which he exposed, with videos and other examples, some of the wooiest of woo being taught there.

Junkfood Science recently blogged about the program at Yale. Concerning the general problem of medical academic woo she wrote:

Some have questioned if CAM-trained doctors are able to practice as primary care physicians and if we can trust their judgments. The concern that probably most comes to mind is whether these doctors are being taught the scientific process and how to recognize sound evidence from modalities that negate all known laws of science and biological plausibility.

She posted a follow up today. Both bloggers mentioned an astounding statement by Yale professor David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP, associate professor, adjunct, of Public Health and director of the Prevention Research Center (PRC) at the Yale University School of Medicine. From DC’s post:

Pretty remarble uh? Dr Katz goes through several different trials, all of which come out negative. And what is his conclusion? You guessed.His conclusion is not that the treatments don’t work but that we need a “more fluid concept of evidence”.

That announcement by a prominent medical academic made it official: we are in the era of post-scientific medicine.

DC went on:

It’s equally bizarre to hear Richard Belitsky, Dean of Medical Education at Yale saying he is “very proud” of this betrayal of enlightenment values. If this is what Yale now considers to be education, it might be better to go somewhere else.

But where else is there to go? With quackery spreading like MRSA throughout academic medical centers the list of institutions with true scientific integrity is shrinking fast.

DC cited the Flexner report and made a point I wrote about before:

Flexner would have thought it quite inconceivable that in 2007 medical schools would be offering Continuing Medical Education in homeopathy.

He asked why other academics at Yale aren’t up in arms and suggested, earlier in the post, that it’s about money:

Very few university administrators have the intellectual integrity to turn down money, whatever the level of dishonesty that is required by its acceptance. You can buy a lot of silence for $100m…

…citing NCCAM and massive philanthropic funding of academic woo.

By the way, where’s the AAMC in all this? Aren’t they supposed to be guardians of integrity and professionalism in medical education? Are they asleep at the switch or is money silencing them too?

And a final note--- I got the idea for the term “post-scientific medicine” from the Carlat Psychiatry Blog. Dr. Carlat, writing about AAMC’s new proposal to limit the influence of pharmaceutical companies in medical academia, declared that we are now in the era of “post-deception medicine”. I respectfully disagreed.

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